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The relation of anxiety to empathy and prosocial behaviour in school-age children Fessler, Leanne J.


This study examines the relation of anxiety symptoms to empathy-related responses and reports of prosocial behaviour in children. Empathy and prosocial behaviour variables were also considered in order to examine their ability to predict subtypes of trait anxiety. Participants were a community sample of 104 children, ages 9 through 12 years, who completed self-report measures of anxiety, empathy-related responding, and prosocial behaviour. Peers and teachers completed assessments of students’ peer prosocial behaviour. Results indicated that empathic concern, perspective-taking, and personal distress were positively and significantly related to higher rates of self-reported anxiety in children (some variation depending upon the anxiety subtype). Children’s anxiety was generally unrelated to reports of their prosocial behaviour, with the exception of the social phobia subtype. Hierarchical regressions revealed that dimensions of empathy-related responding contributed uniquely to the prediction of all subtypes of children’s anxiety, while prosocial behaviour contributed unique information (beyond that provided by empathy variables) to the prediction of obsessive compulsive and social phobia anxiety subtypes. Implications are discussed considering variable associations, unique characteristics of middle childhood, variations by anxiety subtype, gender differences, construct definition, and measurement issues.

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